Prince of wales crew setup

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Laws2306
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Prince of wales crew setup

Post by Laws2306 »

Hi,

Hopefully you may be able to help me.

My grandfather was Lieutenant Commander Cecil Graham Lawson. He was missing presumed killed on the PoW on 10th Dec 1941.

Apart from some evidence given at the Hood enquiry, we have very little information on what he actually did.
https://www.kbismarck.org/forum/viewtop ... son#p72078

Some family notes say he was the navigator. This evidence, puts him in the conning tower of A turret which doesn’t seem to fit with that.

We have a letter from him to my father, saying he was involved in “intelligence” for the Admiralty during the Atlantic Charter period and met WC and Roosevelt, which also seems at odd with someone in charge of a turret.

Whilst I am not sure you will be able to assist with him specifically, I wonder if someone could enlighten me on the structure of PoW at this time. How many Lieutenant commanders would there be on the ship? If he was in A turret (is that the front lower one?), during action stations, what would his role have been? The heads of gunnery and navigation according to Middlebrook and Mahoney’ book, was Cmdr Price and L-C McMullen. Would you have multiple L-C’s in the same area and if so why?

Any guidance you can provide on the structure and hierarchy of the ranks, would be most greatly received.

Thanks Simon Lawson (obviously!)
dunmunro
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Re: Prince of wales crew setup

Post by dunmunro »

'A' turret is the quad 14in turret closest to the bow. PoW was designed with an emergency conning station (not tower) in A turret, that could take over control of ship in the event the bridge and superstructure conning positions were knocked out of action. It would seem that your grandfather Lieutenant Commander Cecil Graham Lawson was in 'A' turret during the engagement with Hood, and was probably a bit of a supernumerary to the turret crew, hence he had time to view Hood during the action. This might indicate that he wasn't part of the ship's gunnery staff, and might have been specialist trained as a navigator. It was common for a large ship to have multiple Lt Commanders.

The Royal Navy published a monthly book called the "Navy List" which names every officer in the Royal Navy and gives their date of acquiring their rank and the ship they're serving on. You can find various editions of it online. Your grandfather would also have a service folder, which should be obtainable as well via the UK Archives, that would provide further details.

I'll try and provide more information later in the week.

BTW: The heads of navigation and gunnery, IIRC, was Cmdr Price (navigation) and L-C McMullen (gunnery).
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hans zurbriggen
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Re: Prince of wales crew setup

Post by hans zurbriggen »

Hello Mr. Dunmunro,
thanks. Interesting to hear that navigation was Cmdr Price, I always thought it was Lt Cmdr Rowell (due to his role at DS battle).

Where was located Price at DS (and in general during operation against BS) and why wasn't he providing inputs to PoW tracks ?

hans
dunmunro
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Re: Prince of wales crew setup

Post by dunmunro »

hans zurbriggen wrote: Wed Sep 28, 2022 7:21 am Hello Mr. Dunmunro,
thanks. Interesting to hear that navigation was Cmdr Price, I always thought it was Lt Cmdr Rowell (due to his role at DS battle).

Where was located Price at DS (and in general during operation against BS) and why wasn't he providing inputs to PoW tracks ?

hans
I simply accepted the info in the first post, but assumed that it was transposed (Price and Mcmullen). However looking at the Navy list for Aug and Dec 1941 I don't see a Cmdr Price on PoW and Rowell is listed as navigator in the Aug edition on page 1345. Price is named in Middlebrook and Mahoney, so he may have joined the ship too late to be included in the Dec 1941 edition.
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hans zurbriggen
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Re: Prince of wales crew setup

Post by hans zurbriggen »

Many thanks for checking, Mr. Dunmunro.

hans
Laws2306
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Re: Prince of wales crew setup

Post by Laws2306 »

Thanks to you both.

Interestingly in the book Atlantic Meeting by H.V. Morton (which I highly recommend if you want to get a real sense of life aboard PoW at this time), as of August 1941, there is no Cmdr Price listed in the appendix of list of officers.

Skipwith, (T) Harland, (G) McMullen, (N) Rowell, Lawson and Terry are listed together as Lieutenant Commanders. I assume they had similar roles which is why they are bucketed together. They are not in alphabetical order and Skipwith is first, which ties out with later reports stating he was the most senior, so this is in order of seniority.

A number of officers have letters in brackets next to their names. E, T, G, N, P, G, O, D, Sp, Any idea what they stand for and if that is a role or section? For example Cmdr Goudy also is listed as (E), but Cmdr H F Lawson has nothing.

L-C Casement and Lockley (E) are presented with another group of Lieutenants (all E) who I assume are related in function.

Overall, 1 captain, 4 Commanders, 10 Lieutenant-Commanders, 1 acting L-C, 19 Lieutenants listed.
Cag
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Re: Prince of wales crew setup

Post by Cag »

Hello All,

Hello Mr Lawson, your grandfather was indeed on HMS Prince of Wales, he was one of two officers named Lawson, the other being Commander H F Lawson who was second in command of PoW.

The reference for your grandfather being in A turret is from testimony from the inquiry into the loss of Hood which is available on line I believe. A turret was the first four gun main armament turret on PoW, B turret was the twin turret behind it, and Y turret was the four gun turret nearer the stern.

A and B turret were crewed by sailors, and had RN officers in charge, whilst Y turret was manned by marines with a Marine Captain in command. Your grandfather in his witness testimony mentions being at the emergency steering position periscope during the battle of the Denmark Strait, A turret was the only turret equipped with an emergency conning position.

There were a number of Lieutenant Commanders on PoW, how many I'm not sure offhand, as for Navigating officers Rowell was the navigator from PoW commissioning and his name last appears on her ships logs in September 1941, Price's name appears on her October log as he was also the staff navigator on Admiral Phillips team.

My uncle also served on PoW on a pom pom anti aircraft gun, Im sorry i cant give more details bit will try to find out more about your Grandfather, however with you being a family member you may have easier access to his naval records. In the archive section of this website there are links to the Hood inquiry documents in which your Grandfather's testimony is contained, Adm 116/4351.

Hope that helps a wee bit,

Best wishes
Cag.
Laws2306
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Re: Prince of wales crew setup

Post by Laws2306 »

Many thanks for the information, most appreciated. Finding out more everyday. Apparently Cmdr Lawson (who was mentioned in dispatches) was nicknamed “titch” which helped indentify him from my grandfather who was quite tall (he’s the tallest officer stood behind Churchill in the famous crew photo in front of A turret).

Apparently the officers bands around their arms had colouring within, that distinguished the officers positions within the ranks (engineer - purple, medical - red etc). My grandfather had none and so our understanding is the he and the 5 other L-C’s were “executive” officers, on the bridge etc and had more general leadership duties, than the others who were designated specific areas because of their training (engineering, finance etc).

What i found incredible was the Cmdr Lawson would probably have received a medal evidencing his significant valour during the sinking, but because it was such a humiliation they decided that they shouldn’t give out medals in such a situation. Surely bravery in a losing cause is exactly when it should be given!
Cag
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Re: Prince of wales crew setup

Post by Cag »

Hi All,

Hi Mr Lawson,

I'll take a look in the ships logs to see if I can find your Grandfather's signature in the margins.

Yes unfortunately the idea "we don't award medals for disaster" was an issue in WW2. None of Prince of Wales or Repulse crew received anything more than mentions in despatches for their valour, in a similar way the Admiral and Captain of HMS Hood could only be awarded mentions due to the loss of Hood in the battle with Bismarck and Prinz Eugen.

You may want to look at the online photo collection of the Imperial War Museum, they have many crew images from when PoW was fitting out at Rosyth to her arrival at Singapore, you may find other views of your Grandfather.

Best wishes
Cag.
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